How to deal with gas and bloating

July 28, 2014 Margaret Gorham, ARNP

We all have occasional gas, usually from something we have eaten, but many people feel that they pass too much gas or burp too frequently. Intestinal gas can result in abdominal pain, bloating and embarrassment.
The amount of gas produced by the body depends upon your diet and other factors. Most people with symptoms of excessive gas do not produce more gas than the average person, but are more aware of normal amounts of gas.
Where does the gas come from?

  • Air swallowing is the major source of gas in the stomach. Increased amount of air swallowing can occur with eating food rapidly, gulping liquids, chewing gum, or smoking.

  • Gas producing foods such as cabbage, broccoli and beans, are difficult to digest and tend to cause more gas and flatulence.

  • Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest the sugar in milk resulting in increased intestinal gas production, along with cramping and diarrhea.

  • Bacterial overgrowth can also cause excessive bloating and gas. It’s normal for us to produce billions of harmless bacteria in the GI tract. Some people tend to have large numbers of bacteria in their small bowel and are prone to develop excessive gas.

  • Celiac disease, which is an allergy to the protein found in wheat, can also cause increased intestinal gas and bloating.

What are the symptoms of gas and bloating?
Some people are sensitive to gas and can experience abdominal discomfort and bloating as gas moves through your colon. Sometimes gas pain can be severe especially if you are also constipated. Many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are sensitive to normal amounts of gas.
How to treat gas and bloating

  • Avoid foods that you know cause increased gas. Sometimes keeping a food journal helps to identify triggers. Try a low FODMAP diet if you are sensitive to gas producing foods.

  • If you are lactose intolerant, avoid products that contain the milk sugar, lactose.

  • Over the counter medications that contain simethicone help break down gas and may be helpful.

  • Most often it is helpful to let the gas pass naturally and avoid holding on to gas as this will only increase bloating and cause discomfort. Try taking the stairs or go for a walk to encourage your body to pass gas.

Talking to your health care provider about your symptoms can help, especially if you have other concerns about your GI tract function.

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